“Hey, kids, would you two come out here?” Stan called from the back porch. He bit his lip, nervously. He had thought that this would be a good idea, but now that he was doing it, he was less sure. His attempts to do things like this seldom turned out the way he hoped they would...his attempts to do much of anything didn't usually turn out how he hoped really.
But the time for second guessing passed as Dipper and Mabel came out the screen door.
“What's wrong, Grunkle Stan?” Mabel asked.
“And why are your hands glowing?” Dipper asked, pointing at Stan's hands, which were cupped closed in front of him and had a noticeable green light shining from between his fingers.
“Oh, no, no, kids there isn't anything wrong or anything like that. I just, uh, I have something I wanted to show you.” Stan said, kneeling down on one knee.
Dipper and Mabel looked at each other a bit uncertainly, but walked over to where Stan knelt. When they were standing just in front of him Stan held out his hands and parted his fingers just enough to make what he was holding visible. Mabel gasped with glee and both twins' eyes went wide.
Sitting in the palm of Stan's hand was what appeared to be a small woman. She was only a few inches tall, with pale green skin and hair a darker green. Her clothes seemed to be made of bits of leaves and flower petals that had been tied together. There was a pair of butterfly-like wings on her back and her body seemed to glow from within with a soft green radiance.
“You caught a fairy?” Mabel asked in surprise.
“This fairy looks different from the ones I usually see around here.” Dipper observed.
“That's because she's what they call a dewdrop fairy. They only come out at dawn and in the early evening and drink up the dew that's out on the leaves. And they can fly at a pretty fast clip when they have a mind to, so most people never even see them.” Stan said.
“She's so pretty.” Mabel said. Hearing this, the fairy sat up a little straighter and started to comb her fingers through her hair.
“That's a good instinct, Mabel,” Stan said, “people as pretty as this little lady, who know how pretty they are, generally like being reminded how pretty they are. It's a simple way for staying on their good side.”
“How do you know stuff like this?” Dipper asked. “Don't get me wrong, it's kinda neat, but I just thought that supernatural stuff wasn't really your thing.”
“What, you think that just 'cause I don't spend my days chasing gnomes or...I don't know, uh, frolicking with the polycorns, that I don't know a thing or two?” Stan asked. “The truth is, I spent 30 years reading the one of the journals I had cover to cover more times than I can count. At first it was just to see if there was something that would help me fix the portal that I missed; but after that I wanted to try to understand what Ford was doing, why this all was so important to him. After all that repetition, ya' pick up a few things.”
“Okay, fine, but why now? Why are you suddenly doing something like this?” Dipper asked.
Stan sighed and his shoulders slumped. He should have known that this couldn't be simple. Dipper was too much like Ford; he couldn't just accept anything, he just had to question everything to death.
“Look, kids,” Stan said, “I know this summer, especially these last couple weeks, has been...let's say chaotic. It's just that, with everything that's been happening lately, I thought it would be nice for you kids to be able to see something that very few people ever get the chance to see...something that wasn't going to try to hurt you. I just want you kids to go home at the end of this summer with memories of something other than horrifying monsters attacking you...” Stan sighed again and added quietly, “or, ya know, me lying to you.”
The twins looked at each other. They had this odd, unreadable expression on their faces; Mabel did some sort of combination tilting her head and eye rolling gesture and Dipper just nodded. Before Stan was able to parse out what unspoken message was being passed between his niece and nephew, the two of them were on either side of him, wrapping their arms around his waist.
“Seriously though, Grunkle Stan, thank you.” Dipper said. “This was pretty cool.”
A sudden, loud, shrill sound caught Stan's attention. He looked at the fairy sitting in his hands; she was tapping one foot on his palm and miming looking at a watch. He wasn't even sure where she learned that gesture, as far as he knew fairies didn't even use watches. They never seemed all that concerned about what time it was.
“Well, it looks like our little friend here is getting impatient.” Stan said. “We should probably let her be on her way.” Stan stood up slowly, his knees protesting at how long he had been kneeling down. “Word of advice, kids; don't try to keep a supernatural creature someplace it doesn't want to be, it's just inviting trouble.”
“Is that why you don't have any real attractions in the Shack, Grunkle Stan?” Mabel asked.
“Well, that and a good showman has to know his audience. The sort of people who come to a place like the Shack are generally people who like the idea of the supernatural, but aren't necessarily ready to deal with the reality of it.” Stan explained. “I mean, think about it; do you think that someone who is confused by a rock that looks like a face is in any way prepared to handle even the tamer stuff that you kids have seen this summer?”
“You make a fair point, Grunkle Stan.” Dipper said. “Honestly, it seems kind of obvious in retrospect.”
Stan couldn't help but be amused. Dipper was a good kid, but sometimes he got so caught up in the stuff that he was interested in that he lost sight of more practical things. The kid was so much like Ford in that respect. Stan opened his hands and let his palms lay flat. The fairy stood and stretched her arms over her head. She gave a brief bow before jumping into the air and taking flight. In just a moment she was just a dim green light in the growing evening, and then she was gone.
As Dipper and Mabel turned and were about to walk back into the house, Stan said, “Uh, ya know, just throwing this out there, but I've noticed that a few dewdrop fairies tend to hang around that honeysuckle bush out in the yard. And it's the right time of day for them to be out,” he gestured toward where the last light of the quickly setting sun shone between the trees, “ya know, if someone were interested in seeing them in the wild and all.”
Dipper put a finger to his chin, thoughtfully, “Hmm, the chance to check out some supernatural creatures that I haven't really seen before, in a non-life threatening situation. I do kind of like the sound of that.”
“I'm up for a fairy stake out.” Mabel added.
With that the two of them walked down the back porch stairs and crept out to the bush. They were talking between themselves, but too quietly for Stan to hear what they were saying. Stan grinned just a little bit, this had gone a bit better than he'd thought it would. The kids seemed pretty happy with all of this, and really that was all he'd hoped for in the first place. Stan walked over to the couch and, as he was about to sit when he saw something just at the edge of his vision. He turned and saw Ford standing in the doorway.
Stan sat down and asked, “So, how long have you been standing there?”
“Long enough.” Ford replied taking a seat next to Stan. “So...” he shifted uncomfortably for a moment, as though he was not sure how to proceed. “you caught a dewdrop fairy? That's quite a thing.”
“You don't have to patronize me, Ford.”
“I'm not. I mean, you said it yourself, not very many people ever even see these fairies; actually catching one isn't exactly nothing.” Ford paused and then continued, “It's more than I ever managed.”
Stan wondered what his brother was playing at. Making jokes was never exactly Ford's thing even when they were young, and he'd seemed even more humorless ever since he came back from wherever he'd been. “Yeah, pull the other one now.”
“I'm being serious. Everything I have written about them in my journal comes from hours spent climbing trees and sitting in shrubbery before dawn just hoping to see some of them. I tried to catch one more times than I can count, but I just never could. Care to let your brother in on your secret?”
“Would you believe, asking nicely?”
Ford frowned. “Okay, now you're pulling my leg.”
“Hilariously enough, I'm not. I tried for ages to catch one and had about as much luck as you. No matter what I tried, nothing worked. When I was trying to figure out where I was going wrong I thought to myself, 'Well, I've tried everything but asking politely.' and that seemed so completely ridiculous that I figured it couldn't hurt to try. So, when I manage to find one, I walked up to her as slow as I could to keep from scaring her away and then I quietly introduced myself and explained what I had in mind...and she went along with it.”
Ford looked utterly shocked. “I...I don't even know what to say to that.”
“Hey, no one's more surprised than I am that this somehow worked.” Stan replied.
“Well, okay, now I'm curious.” Ford said. “Rumor has it that dewdrop fairies will grant a wish to a human who manages to catch them. Something about doing so requiring a trait that they value highly...which apparently turns out to be good manners, I guess. I was never able to confirm this, for obvious reasons, so can you give me a yes or no on that?”
Stan could not believe he had forgotten that. As many times as he had read that journal and somehow everything about these ridiculously obscure fairies had stuck in his mind except their tendency to grant wishes. Well, he certainly didn't remember wishing for anything, and since that fairy was long gone it was probably too late to try now.
As Stan was about to tell Ford this, he heard Mabel squeal out in the yard. Stan turned to see what was happening. The glowing forms of two fairies came floating up from among the branches of the honeysuckle bush. One of them was green and, though it was impossible to see from this distance, judging by the shade of the glow, he thought that it might be the same fairy from earlier; the other glowed a pale, rosy pink. The two of them landed on a branch at the top of the bush; and in unison they let out a harmonious, trilling call that sounded something like a cross between birdsong and chiming bells.
The sound echoed out through the still evening. As the call faded into the distance, several fairies floated out from the tree line. Following them, more fairies began to trickle out from the woods; then the trickle became a torrent, as too many fairies to even count came flooding into view. In moments the air was filled with fairy lights of every shade imaginable. When it seemed as though the fairies had finished coming through the trees, one last fairy arrived; this one bathed in golden radiance brighter than the lights of all the other fairies. The golden fairy landed on the honeysuckle bush next to the first two fairies who had arrived; this fairy sang out a brief, bright tone and, in response, the assembled fairies let out a cheer. All at once the fairies burst into activity, the air was a swirling sea of light and color as the fairies began to dance; in groups both small and large they spun round, looped, and performed seemingly impossible feats of acrobatics, free from the restriction of gravity. And through it all, the newly fallen night was filled with the sound of their high, musical voices.
Stan heard Ford let out a small, surprised laugh, followed by, “Wow...oh, wow. Lee would you look at that?”
This gave Stan pause. Ford hadn't called him 'Lee' since they were kids. Stan looked over at his brother and could barely believe what he saw. Ford's eyes were wide and a grin broader than any Stan had seen in years formed on his lips. Ford's face was filled with almost child-like wonder and amazement, and it seemed that all of the anger and the bitterness of forty long years had melted away and, if only for this brief, shining moment, Ford was once again the brother Stan remembered from his youth; the brother he missed so much. Ford's mirth seemed to be infectious, because Stan felt a grin crossing his face as well and a warm, joyful feeling grew in his chest.
“Yeah, this is pretty amazing.”
Stan knew that this didn't really change anything between him and Ford, not really. There was a lot of bad blood between him and his brother, and he realized that one, admittedly pretty spectacular, light show wasn't going to bridge decades of mutual isolation and resentment. All this was, was a moment, but it was a very good moment; one of few that the two of them had shared in a very long time. It may not be able to fix anything, but maybe it was enough to be a start.
"Ya know, Ford? I think maybe I did get my wish."